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Health Literacy From A to Z, Second Edition
Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message

Author(s): Helen Osborne, MEd, OTR/L
  • ISBN-13: 9781449600532
  • Paperback    256 pages      © 2013
Price: $53.95 US List
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Author, Helen Osborne talks about the new Second Edition of Health Literacy From A to Z. Listen to Helen explain the comprehensive features of this essential reader-friendly resource and the benefits for students, educators, and practitioners.

A Best-Seller on Amazon!

Health Literacy From A to Z, Second Edition is included in the 2015 edition of the essential collection of Doody’s Core Titles.

Doody's Review Service, 5 Stars, Score 100!

AWARDS for The Second Edition
Two-time winner of New England Chapter of the American Medical Writers Association awards:
          2012 Will Solimene Award for Excellence in Medical Communication
          2012 Neil Duane Award of Distinction
2012 Medical Book Awards: Honorable Mention in the Non-Physicians category

Clear communication of your health message can make all the difference in effective patient care. Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition is an easy to use handbook designed for healthcare students the busy health professional. Filled with ideas and strategies that can be used in everyday practice, Health Literacy from A to Z is a first-of-its-kind resource. Learn the key principles and strategies of effective health communication presented in a simple, informal manner by one of the nation’s leading experts in health literacy.

Whether you are a physician, nurse, pharmacist, allied health professional, case manager, public health specialist, practice manager, health care educator, student or family caregiver this book is for you.

Instructor Resources include a Sample Syllabus and PowerPoint Presentations.

What’s New in the Second Edition of Health Literacy from A to Z

The Second Edition is updated and revised to reflect current health literacy research and practice with new information about timely health literacy topics. This edition has 14 new sections including 4 sections about “Technology” and 7 chapters focused on “Know Your Audience.”


  • “Starting Points” with an introduction to key information
  • “Strategies, Ideas, and Suggestions” with lots of practical, how-to tips
  • “Stories from Practice” showcasing real-life experiences from a wide range of perspectives to help make key points come alive
  • “Sources to Learn More” including an extensive list of books, articles, websites, podcasts, and other resources

New Topics

  • Business Side of Health Literacy
  • Communicating When Patients Feel Scared, Sick, and Overwhelmed
  • General Public: Talking with Patients about What They Learn from the Media
  • Organizational Efforts, Advocacy, and Collaborations
  • Regulatory and Legal Language
  • Website Writing
  • Blogs and Social Media
  • Audio Podcasts
  • Email and Text Messages
  • Interactive Multimedia
  • Sections focusing on, “Know Your Audience” with in-depth information about:
    • Children and Youth
    • Emotions and Cognition 
    • Hearing Loss
    • Language and Culture
    • Literacy 
    • Older Adults
    • Vision Problems

Features & Benefits

  • Focuses on many ways of communicating health messages
  • Explores the varied learning needs of seven different audiences
  • Includes information about varied types of technology.
  • Provides one or more stories and real-life examples in each chapter
  • Contains valuable resources for all professionals who communicate health information
  • Presents information for all levels of knowledge and experience, from students in health programs to seasoned professionals and caregivers

Instructor Resources include a Sample Syllabus and PowerPoint Presentations.

About Health Literacy
Assessing Health Literacy
Assessing Readability with Grade Level Formulas
Business Side of Health Literacy
Communicating When Patients Feel Scared, Sick, and Overwhelmed
Confirming Understanding: Feedback from Interviews, Focus Groups, and Usability Testing
Confirming Understanding: Teach-back Technique
Decision Aids & Shared Decision-Making
Document Design
Environment of Care: Entrances, Questions, Signs, and Feng Shui
Ethics of Simplicity
Forms and Other “Reading-to-Do” Documents
General Public: Talking with Patients about What They Learn from the Media
Humor and Healing
Interpreters and Translations
Jargon, Acronyms, and Other Troublesome Words
Know Your Audience: Children and Youth
Know Your Audience: Culture and Language
Know Your Audience: Emotions & Cognition
Know Your Audience: Hearing Loss
Know Your Audience: Literacy
Know Your Audience: Older Adults
Know Your Audience: Vision Problems
Listening & Speaking
Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies
Organizational Efforts: Health Literacy at Community, Statewide, and National Levels
Plain Language
Regulatory and Legal Language
Teaching & Learning
Technology: Audio Podcasts
Technology: Blogs and Other Social Media
Technology: Email & Text Messaging
Technology: Interactive Multimedia
Universal Design in Communication
Writing for the Web
You: Empathy and Humanity
Zest and Pizzazz

Helen Osborne, MEd, OTR/L


Helen Osborne M.Ed., OTR/L. Recognized for her expertise in health literacy, Helen helps health professionals communicate in ways that patients and their families can understand. She does so through a range of consulting, training, and writing services.
Helen is president of Health Literacy Consulting based in Natick, Massachusetts. She is also the founder of Health Literacy Month, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the importance of understandable health information. In addition, Helen produces and hosts the podcast series, Health Literacy Out Loud.
Helen brings clinical experience, educational training, and patient perspective to all her work. She gives health literacy presentations across the United States and Canada as well as overseas. She also serves as a plain language writer/editor on numerous projects. Several of these have won plain language awards from the National Institutes of Health.
For many years, Helen was a columnist for theBoston Globe Media’s On Call magazine, writing about patient education and healthcare communication. She is the author of several books, including the award-winning Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message -- considered by many as the most important health literacy reference today. To learn more about Helen’s work, please visit the Health Literacy Consulting website at You can also listen to her Health Literacy Out Loud podcast interviews at

  • "[Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate your Health Message, Second Edition] is intended to help readers learn to communicate health messages and information clearly and simply in a variety of ways. Given the complexity of medicine today, coupled with multicultural and literacy barriers, the author does an outstanding job teasing out primary and peripheral issues and providing simple and effective guidance. This book is detailed, but well written and easy to read. It would prove a worthy resource for all healthcare providers and bedside caregivers as well as medical and college libraries. This is an excellent book and highly recommended."

    ~ Steven K. Hamick, BIS, RCP, RRT, AE-C, William Beaumont Hospitals (Doody's Review Service, 5 Stars, Score 100!)

  • "Really pleased to know that your book will soon be available in a second edition. If you ask me, the need for your book just keeps growing."
    ~ Jack Bruggeman, Director, Special Publishing, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists®

  • "For those who are ready to improve health communication in their institution or individual practice, [Health Literacy from A to Z] gives excellent ideas for immediate use. It will get you started down the road to clear health communication. Had this book been available, I would have recommended it countless times over the last few years to individuals who have asked me about improving their health message."

    Darren A. DeWalt, MD, MPH
    University of North Carolina School of Medicine
    (From a book review in Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • “If you can purchase only one book about communicating health information, make it Health Literacy from A to Z!...Helen Osborne continues to be a pioneer in the field, inspiring people to seek creative and effective ways to make health information accessible for everyone.”

    Shelley Hourston, Program Director
    Health Literacy Network, BC Coalition of People with Disabilities in Vancouver, Canada

  • "One of the links in Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message has proven a gold mine for a case that is in Superior Court on behalf of a friend of mine. The sources provided in the text include links to tremendously helpful reports on regulations and court cases. That link alone may win the case.
    Helen Osborne has been so extremely thorough in her coverage of the subject that it encompasses areas that make the book a resource that should be used by lots of people other than the obvious health care providers, such as: QA and advisory groups for health insurers, malpractice lawyers, non-profits focused on immigrant rights and prisoner's rights, researchers involved in clinical trials for drug and medical device companies, policy makers and program managers in government agencies, call centers handling patient registration, senior centers. The holistic and empathic model she provides should be emulated by everyone who touches health care.”
    ~ Catherine Moore, Medical Librarian

  • "I especially love the chapter on 'Know Your Audience: Emotion and Cognition.' I wish every intern (and attending physicians, too) would have this as required reading on July 1!"  

    ~ Steven Grossman, MD, PhD, Chair, Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Palliative Care, Virginia Commonwealth University

  • “Health Literacy from A to Z is one of my favorite entry level resources for health literacy. Helen Osborne’s book and website are valuable for both beginners and seasoned health literacy champions.”

    ~ Fran Robinson, Health Education Center/Patient Education Coordinator, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

  • "I use Health Literacy from A to Z as a textbook in my skills-oriented, graduate-level health literacy courses. The text provides practical strategies for meeting the health information needs of a wide range of patients and consumers. It is the one text my students find useful beyond the classroom." 

    ~ Sabrina Kurtz-Rossi, M.Ed., Adjunct Clinical Instructor, Tufts University School of Medicine; Adjunct Professor of Public Health, University of New England

  • Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition is easy and interesting to read.  We were impressed with the many examples presented which not only make the point clearer, but add so much interest. The book covers literacy topics from A to Z and provides a repeatable format for each chapter.”

    ~ Len and Ceci Doak

  • "This a commendable new edition. Helen Osborne is always staunchly patient-centered, and very deliberate in the points she wants to teach professionals. I hope this becomes required reading in every health promotion program in the U.S."

    ~ Joe Zoske, MS, MSW, Siena College Social Work Program

  • "....The book excels in describing the many factors that influence communication, such as age, culture, emotions, cognition, past experience, current limitations, and ethics.

    You can read the book from A to Z, if that's your preferred approach. Or you can look up a topic of interest, such as Document Design, Interpreters and Translations, Listening and Speaking, Numeracy, Visuals, or any of the others, including several important chapters on Knowing Your Audience. My favorite way to read it is to open it up anywhere and read whatever is on that page, because everything in the book is practical what-to-do and how-to-do-it. And every single page offers advice that's worth paying attention to. In addition to strategies, ideas and suggestions, every chapter offers stories and examples and a list of related resources."

    ~ Naomi Karten (5 Star Review on

  • "The tone is at once folksy and warm, but also authoritative.  It contains so many good ideas for practice that I feel I ought to number them 1-365 and try one out each day. Not surprisingly, the best thing about it, is that diverse voices are woven into a tapestry of collective wisdom."

    ~ Don Rubin, Center for Health & Risk Communication, University of Georgia

  • "As Patient/Family Education Coordinator for our hospital I spent a over a year learning "piecemeal" what is offered in a nutshell in this book. It also gives detailed "Sources to Learn More" at the end of each chapter. No digging for additional info - it is right there at your fingertips. I wish I had had this book when I first started in this postion. It would have been helpful in steering me on a more efficient path. You can easily just choose a chapter to read, but I ended up reading it cover to cover. While this would make a great text book (and should be required for anyone responsible for communicating health information), it is presented in such a way that it is an enjoyable read."

    ~ Bonnie Ronan (5 Star Review,

The following instructor resources are available to qualified instructors for download

ISBN-13: 9781449600532

Slides in PowerPoint Format